Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

by Bec Crew

Strange microbes have been found inside the massive, subterranean crystals of Mexico’s Naica Mine, and researchers suspect they’ve been living there for up to 50,000 years.

The ancient creatures appear to have been dormant for thousands of years, surviving in tiny pockets of liquid within the crystal structures. Now, scientists have managed to extract them – and wake them up.

“These organisms are so extraordinary,” astrobiologist Penelope Boston, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, said on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston.

The Cave of Crystals in Mexico’s Naica Mine might look incredibly beautiful, but it’s one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, with temperatures ranging from 45 to 65°C (113 to 149°F), and humidity levels hitting more than 99 percent.

Not only are temperatures hellishly high, but the environment is also oppressively acidic, and confined to pitch-black darkness some 300 metres (1,000 feet) below the surface.

In lieu of any sunlight, microbes inside the cave can’t photosynthesise – instead, they perform chemosynthesis using minerals like iron and sulphur in the giant gypsum crystals, some of which stretch 11 metres (36 feet) long, and have been dated to half a million years old.

Researchers have previously found life living inside the walls of the cavern and nearby the crystals – a 2013 expedition to Naica reported the discovery of creatures thriving in the hot, saline springs of the complex cave system.

But when Boston and her team extracted liquid from the tiny gaps inside the crystals and sent them off to be analysed, they realised that not only was there life inside, but it was unlike anything they’d seen in the scientific record.

They suspect the creatures had been living inside their crystal castles for somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 years, and while their bodies had mostly shut down, they were still very much alive.

“Other people have made longer-term claims for the antiquity of organisms that were still alive, but in this case these organisms are all very extraordinary – they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases,” Boston told Jonathan Amos at BBC News.

What’s perhaps most extraordinary about the find is that the researchers were able to ‘revive’ some of the microbes, and grow cultures from them in the lab.

“Much to my surprise we got things to grow,” Boston told Sarah Knapton at The Telegraph. “It was laborious. We lost some of them – that’s just the game. They’ve got needs we can’t fulfil.”

At this point, we should be clear that the discovery has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, so until other scientists have had a chance to examine the methodology and findings, we can’t consider the discovery be definitive just yet.

The team will also need to convince the scientific community that the findings aren’t the result of contamination – these microbes are invisible to the naked eye, which means it’s possible that they attached themselves to the drilling equipment and made it look like they came from inside the crystals.

“I think that the presence of microbes trapped within fluid inclusions in Naica crystals is in principle possible,” Purificación López-García from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who was part of the 2013 study that found life in the cave springs, told National Geographic.

“[But] contamination during drilling with microorganisms attached to the surface of these crystals or living in tiny fractures constitutes a very serious risk,” she says. I am very skeptical about the veracity of this finding until I see the evidence.”

That said, microbiologist Brent Christner from the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was also not involved in the research, thinks the claim isn’t as far-fetched as López-García is making it out to be, based on what previous studies have managed with similarly ancient microbes.

“[R]eviving microbes from samples of 10,000 to 50,000 years is not that outlandish based on previous reports of microbial resuscitations in geological materials hundreds of thousands to millions of years old,” he told National Geographic.

For their part, Boston and her team say they took every precaution to make sure their gear was sterilised, and cite the fact that the creatures they found inside the crystals were similar, but not identical to those living elsewhere in the cave as evidence to support their claims.

“We have also done genetic work and cultured the cave organisms that are alive now and exposed, and we see that some of those microbes are similar but not identical to those in the fluid inclusions,” she said.

Only time will tell if the results will bear out once they’re published for all to see, but if they are confirmed, it’s just further proof of the incredible hardiness of life on Earth, and points to what’s possible out there in the extreme conditions of space.

http://www.sciencealert.com/ancient-life-has-been-found-trapped-inside-these-giant-cave-crystals

Bright+light

The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down.

Scientists at the University of Southampton spent four years examining more than 2000 people who suffered cardiac arrest from 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria. They found that of 360 people who had been revived after experiencing cardiac arrest, about 40 percent of them had some sort of “awareness” during the period when they were “clinically dead.”

One man’s memory of what he saw “after death” was spot-on in describing what actually happened during his resuscitation. The 57-year-old recalled leaving his body and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. He reported hearing two beeps come from a machine that went off every three minutes — indicating that his conscious experience during the time he had no heartbeat lasted for around three minutes. According to the researchers, that suggests the man’s brain may not have shut down completely, even after his heart stopped.

“This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted,” study co-author Dr. Sam Parnia, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University and former research fellow at Southampton University, said in a written statement.

Parnia added that it’s possible even more patients in the study had mental activity following cardiac arrest but were unable to remember events during the episode as a result of brain injury or the use of sedative drugs.

“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.

“But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds after the heart has stopped.

Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peace while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up.

Some recalled seeing a bright light and others recounted feelings of fear, drowning or being dragged through deep water.

Dr Parnia believes many more people may have experiences when they are close to death but drugs or sedatives used in resuscitation may stop them remembering.

“Estimates have suggested that millions of people have had vivid experiences in relation to death but the scientific evidence has been ambiguous at best.

“Many people have assumed that these were hallucinations or illusions but they do seem to have corresponded to actual events.

“These experiences warrant further investigation.”

Dr David Wilde, a research psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, is currently compiling data on out-of-body experiences in an attempt to discover a pattern that links each episode.

“There is some good evidence here that these experiences are happening after people have medically died.

“We just don’t know what is going on. We are still in the dark about what happens when you die.”

The study was published in the journal Resuscitation.

http://www.resuscitationjournal.com/article/S0300-9572(14)00739-4/abstract

No, it’s not the latest eye-popping item from the always entertaining Weekly World News. Instead, it’s an actual headline from the October 22, 1945, issue of LIFE magazine, above an article about … well, a headless chicken: “Beheaded Chicken Lives Normally After Freak Decapitation by Ax.”

“Ever since Sept. 10,” LIFE informed its readers, “a rangy Wyandotte rooster named Mike has been living a normal chicken’s life though he has no head.” Mike, it seems, “lost his head in the usual rooster way. Mrs. L.A. Olson, wife of a farmer in Fruita, Colo., 200 miles west of Denver, decided to have chicken for dinner. Mrs. Olson took Mike to the chopping block and axed off his head. Thereupon Mike got up and soon began to strut around…. What Mrs. Olson’s ax had done was to clip off most of the skull but leave intact one ear, the jugular vein and the base of the brain, which controls motor function.”

The rest is poultry history. Mike lived for 18 months after losing his head, finally succumbing at a motel in the Arizona desert in 1946 during one of his many appearances as a sideshow attraction in the American southwest.

Here, LIFE.com presents Mike’s unlikely story, as well as the utterly unsettling pictures that ran (and some that never ran) in LIFE.

chicken2<
Mike the headless chicken “dances” in 1945.

chicken3
Mike the headless chicken in his Colorado barnyard, with fellow chickens, 1945.

chicken4
A picture of the suitcase containing the tools for feeding Mike the headless chicken, including an eye dropper that was used to provide sustenance through the hole atop his torso where his head used to be.

chicken5
Mike the headless chicken is fed through an eye dropper, directly into his esophagus, in 1945.

chicken6
Promoter Hope Wade holds Mike the headless chicken’s formerly useful noggin, as if attempting to reintroduce the bird to its lost self, in 1945. (Some reports, however, claim that the Olsons’ cat ate Mike’s head, and that another rooster’s head stood in for Mike’s during his brief brush with fame.)

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Read more: http://life.time.com/curiosities/photos-mike-the-headless-chicken-beyond-belief/#ixzz2OZ1jpmWC

monopoly

Quaker extortionists and Monopoly? The Civil War and The Game of Life? We usually associate board gaming with family time, but several of the most popular games out there have some not-so-family-friendly origins.

So if you’re looking to spark some interesting conversations next time you gather ’round the table for an evening of dice and fake money, here are a few of the lesser known tales of history’s biggest board games.

Monopoly and the Quakers

You may have heard the legend that an unemployed salesman named Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly during the depression, somewhere around 1935. That’s not entirely true.

A Quaker named Lizzie Magie, in fact, first created the game in 1904 to showcase the evils of property ownership (the original title was “The Landlord’s Game”.) Magie was a supporter of the Quaker tax reformer Henry George, and the game focused on players extorting one another.

It was a hit in the Quaker community — a big one. One enthusiastic fan was a hotelier named Charles Todd, who would sometimes play with his guests. One regular visitor was (you guessed it) Charles Darrow, who asked Todd to write up the rules for him.

Once the game took off, Parker Bros. learned its true origins and had to do some damage control. It bought the rights for $500 from Magie, who believed her original game — and its anti-property philosophies — would finally be distributed to the masses. And it was, though only for a couple hundred copies, at least, before it was discontinued. Turns out people had more fun with Darrow’s tweaks to the game.

The Hard Life

On the surface, Life seems like a pretty happy-go-lucky game. You get a job, have kids and can’t wait for payday. Even if things go south, you’ll still find plenty of good events as you inch towards retirement.

The original game was a lot darker, though. Created by Milton Bradley himself, the game was originally sold under the name of “The Checkered Game of Life” during the Civil War. Less a whimsical journey and more a moralistic lesson, it was meant to teach virtue and principles to children.

Before there was payday, there were squares that included poverty, disgrace, and gambling to ruin. The game even came with a “Suicide” square — which, if landed on, marked your last turn. Way to bum us all out, Milton.

The darker side of Clue

Anthony E. Pratt was a fire warden during World War II. While walking his beat one day, he thought back to a favorite pre-war game he and his friends used to play called “Murder!”

“Between the wars,” he once said, “all the bright young things would congregate in each other’s homes for parties at weekends. We’d play a stupid game called Murder, where guests crept up on each other in corridors and the victim would shriek and fall on the floor.”

He transformed that somewhat morbid real-world distraction into a board game. The original version, though, was a bit harsher than what we play today. In addition to the gun, rope and other murder weapons, it included an axe, syringe, shillelagh, poison, and even a bomb. Not sure that’s the most inconspicuous weapon, but it’s probably effective.

Scrabble

If it weren’t from his love of master of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Butts might never have developed Scrabble.

The game, which has been a valuable resource in teaching spelling and vocabulary to kids, was born when creator Butts was reading Poe’s “The Gold Bug,” a story that involves figuring out a code based on how frequently letters are used. Butts decided to tweak that a bit and sat down to count out how frequently letters appeared in an issue The New York Times, which was quite the undertaking.

He called the game Lexico and spent more than 16 years waiting for it to take off. It wasn’t until 1952, when Jack Strauss, manager of Macy’s, played the game on vacation that things exploded. Strauss loved it so much that he demanded to know why it wasn’t on Macy’s store shelves. An order was placed and a classic finally found its audience.

Chutes and Ladders (and Murder and Lust)

If it seems like this immensely popular children’s game has been around forever, there’s a reason: it has. The concept has been traced back to an Hindu game called Leela — a game of self-knowledge — as well as an Indian game called Daspada.

Leela was created by Hindu scholars with the intention of teaching moral values. Daspada came about in the second century with a similar purpose, but using ladders to represent virtues and snakes to represent vices (hence the title ‘Snakes and Ladders’ in the U.K.).

Those vices were serious business, too. Included among them in Daspada were Vulgarity, Drunkenness, Murder and Lust. Yikes.

One thing’s for certain, though. The game’s a lot easier than it used to be. As society has become more focused on accentuating the positives for children, the number of ladders (which you use to progress in the game) has increased, while the number of chutes/snakes (which send you back several spaces) has gone down.

http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/shady-origins-five-popular-board-games-202719027.html